Four Killed as Winter Storm Slams Northeast

More than a quarter-million homes and businesses still lacked power across the Northeast on Saturday as temperatures plummeted following a storm with hurricane-force wind gusts that was blamed for four deaths.

Wind was still blowing at about 30 mph through the region Saturday. On Friday, wind of more than 60 mph buffeted the Rochester area and a 77-mph gust was recorded at the city's airport, the weather service said.

The storm swept out of the Midwest on Friday, carrying a wave of bitterly cold air. Temperatures in some parts of western New York plunged from 60 degrees to below freezing within a few hours. Parts of Arkansas had 5.5 inches of snow Saturday and freezing temperatures extended across the state. Hayward, Wis., had a morning low of 26 below zero, and afternoon temperatures in the Upper Midwest were in only the single digits Saturday.

The frigid temperatures forced officials in Madison, Wis., which had a high 3 degrees on Saturday, to cancel the "Polar Plunge" into a lake, a fundraiser for the Special Olympics.

"We first really realized it was a problem when we cut the hole this morning and it immediately skimmed over with ice," Cheryl Balazs of the Special Olympics told WKOW-TV.

Utility officials in upstate New York said crews would work through the weekend to restore power to 160,000 customers, down from at least 328,000 customers who were blacked out Friday.

More than 40,000 homes and businesses had no electricity in New Hampshire, and more than 35,000 in Maine.

Vermont, where the National Weather Service reported a wind gust of 143 mph on Stratton Mountain, had about 7,000 customers still without power, and some 1,800 customers were blacked out in Massachusetts.

Several states opened shelters, providing havens with light and heat for those without power.

"Most people tough it out the first night and then come in the second night," said Mark Bosma, spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management.

In Michigan, about 43,000 customers were still without power Saturday because of damage caused by 60 mph wind. Some homes and businesses were expected to remain blacked out until Monday.

The wind toppled trees in many areas.

Alfred Binder, 87, was unhurt when a huge tree fell across a road and hit his car in Laconia, N.H.

"I swerved to the left, but I couldn't miss it," he told WMUR-TV. "I tried."

A falling tree crushed a car outside Rochester, killing a 52-year-old woman, and another killed a state worker in a truck at Saratoga Spa State Park. A falling tree killed the driver of a pickup at Billerica, Mass. East of Rochester, a man was killed when his vehicle slammed into a tractor-trailer rig whose driver had stopped to clear storm debris from his windshield.

A dozen youngsters narrowly escaped injury in Gorham, 25 miles southeast of Rochester, when a tree heavily damaged their school bus.

Wind also knocked out a 12th-floor window in a high-rise office building in Syracuse, and falling debris barely missed passers-by, police said. Broken glass crashed onto a sidewalk in Binghamton when wind gusting above 50 mph damaged windows on the upper floors of an eight-story building. No one was hurt.